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Is It a Cold or the Flu?

How to Tell If You Have a "Just a Cold" or the Flu

It's that time of year where we wash our hands like crazy to prevent getting a cold or the flu, but sometimes, the inevitable happens. Here's what you need to know to determine which illness you have so you can treat it the right way and start feeling better.

Note that not everyone will experience these symptoms:

Cold Flu (Influenza)
Fever Low-grade or no fever 100.4 degrees or higher
Chills Uncommon Common
Aches and Pains Mild Usual and often severe
Headache Mild Common
Nasal Congestion Common Common
Sore throat Common Common
Fatigue Mild Common
Cough Common Common, dry, persistent
Complications Ear infections, Sinus infections, Asthma flare-ups Ear infections, Asthma flare-ups, Pneumonia, Bronchitis, Heart problems
Illness Duration Symptoms come on gradually and last 7 to 10 days Symptoms come on suddenly and last 1 to 2 weeks
Treatment Rest, drink fluids, avoid contact with others. Over-the-counter medications can alleviate symptoms but won't cure your cold. Rest, drink fluids, avoid contact with others. Taking antiviral drugs within 48 hours after first symptoms can reduce the duration of the illness.

Basically, flu symptoms are more severe than cold symptoms. They come on suddenly and leave you feeling much worse and unable to do anything but sleep. Colds are much more common than the flu, and getting a flu shot can cut down your chances even more.

Whether you have a cold or the flu, if symptoms last longer than the expected duration or you're at risk for complications, make an appointment with your doctor.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Sheila Gim
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